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Lonely in Perugia January 30, 2008

Posted by dorigo in personal, physics, social life, travel.

Tonight and tomorrow I am in Perugia, where I am following a workshop on LHC physics for italians participating in the CMS and ATLAS experiments: about 220 physicists have crowded the venue, Hotel Gio’, where they will spend three days discussing their plans for physics measurements and searches with the data that we are all waiting LHC to deliver.

The real workshop starts tomorrow, but I spent today’s afternoon at a preliminary CMS meeting, where the analysis efforts and plans of each of the italian institutions collaborating with CMS were discussed. I thus learned that the italian community in CMS has a rather strong involvement in electroweak physics analyses, a reasonable commitment with Higgs physics, and a smaller-than-expected interest in SUSY and other exotics searches. That was not a real surprise (I sort of knew that already), but it got me thinking that I might not be alone in believing that the LHC will not discover new physics beyond the standard model.

After the meeting was over I had a chance to play a little on a wonderful baby grand Steinway & Sons piano. The dinner was in form of a buffet, and despite the awkward manner of eating while standing up, a glass in one hand and a dinner plate in the other, it was a nice occasion to chat with several colleagues with which I usually have little chance to interact. Nando, Didar, Michelangelo, Simone, Vitaliano…. However, after the food ran out, and people were still lingering around discussing in small groups, I felt the need to take a couple of steps back, to observe the merry crowd with some detachment.

I am usually a sociable person and -especially after a couple of glasses of wine (I had three tonight)- I am “quick with a joke” and a fairly good converser. Nevertheless, there are times when I feel tired, and need some times for myself, to “recharge”, so to speak. Social occasions drain me quickly.

So I watched as the after-dinner activities were being organized by the younger colleagues, who planned to walk up to the center of the town. Perugia has quite a few nice places where to spend the evening in good company, but it sits on top of a hill, and our Hotel is at its feet. I drove here with my car, but the option to pick up the car and fight my way to an improbable parking in the narrow streets of the medioeval town center did not appeal to me much. I also did not fancy much the long walk… It was 8.30 in the evening, and I called it off, repairing in my room. Maybe I am really growing old!

… Or maybe, just maybe, the last month after Christmas vacations, which saw me working 110% of my time on the analysis of Higgs production with top quark pairs which constitutes the cornerstone of Marco’s PhD thesis, is calling for some rest. Marco will deliver his thesis tomorrow morning! It was indeed a hectic month, and I am happy and relieved to be looking forward to five days of vacation in Lisbon with my family, starting this coming Saturday!



1. Amara - January 31, 2008

Ah, Lisboa, the pink city! I loved the blend of East and West with the Moorish structures and history. I was there for about 8 days in 2002, for a Jupiter conference. I brought my touring bicycle to Lisboa from Heidelberg, where I was living at the time, with the intention of making a weeklong bicycle tour after the conference, but I didn’t know where. While in Lisboa for that week, it became obvious to me that Henry the Navigator is the most important person in Portuguese history, so if I was going to understand something about the culture, I needed to understand something about Henry. So I decided my one week bike tour would be from Lisboa to Sagres, the southern tip of Portugal, where Henry built his navigation school and educated the best brains in Europe concerned with the nautical sciences.

If you don’t have accommodations yet, I suggest to try to stay in one of the Pousadas. The Pousadas of Portugal offers a similar idea of accommodation to the Paradores of Spain. They are state-owned monasteries, castles, convents, forts, manor houses that have been restored and turned into hotels, and are often set in a beautiful countryside.

And don’t miss the Azulejos tiles, while in Lisboa. They are the brightly colored decorative ceramic tiles influenced by the Moorish and Spanish designs before the 16th century. Around the mid-16th century the Portuguese developed their own style when a new Italian method allowed images to be painted onto the clay, rather than using colored clay. Later, by the 17th century, decadent and colorful images were extremely popular.

I thought that Portugal’s cork trees, which supplies about 60% of the world’s cork, after they are stripped, looked almost comical, like long-legged children who forgot to wear some of their clothes. And I never did learn the answer to why all of the light houses are red!

2. Phil Warnell - January 31, 2008

Hi T,

What a lovely setting to have such a conference. As such things are old hat for you I understand your feelings in regard to them at times and at this point. In my own professional circle with its related meeting and events I now feel often the same. However as I am not a physicist, yet only hold it as my hobby I have often wished that I be only allowed to be the fly on the wall at a event such as you so wonderfully described.



3. Andrea Giammanco - January 31, 2008

Beware the Erasmus students 😉

4. dorigo - January 31, 2008

Dear Amara, thank you for you recollection of your visit to Lisbon. We already have accomodation at a local hotel, but I plan to tour the area by car if the weather is fine. I don’t think I’ll go as far south as you did, but for sure I would love to see the cliffs on the sea on a national park just south of Lisbon.
As for the tiles, I know what you are talking about – I learned about them during a stay at San Miguel in the Azores, two years ago.

5. dorigo - January 31, 2008

Dear Phil,

these meetings are interesting in some moments, and boring in others. Their main function, however, is to get people together in a setting and mood which enables high-level talk, brainstorming, and planning. I think you do not lose much altogether. Better to visit CERN or Fermilab once and assist to one seminar if you have a chance.


6. dorigo - January 31, 2008

Hi Andrea, well – I do not think I would be scared by an Amanda, knife or not. I actually think she’s hot 😉


7. Amara - January 31, 2008

Tommaso: There are Pousadas all over Portugal; maybe for your next Portugal trip. That’s the compass that you see in front on the grounds of Henry’s Navigation school. Bike touring is my own way to recharge my batteries and that particular Portugal trip turned in to a large theme of ‘navigation’, metaphorically in my own life and in reality. It was exactly what I needed.

“Set your compass toward what is beautiful and true, have confidence in your own intuition, and sail out into the glistening sea. Perseverance furthers, friend.” –Anonymous

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